Country In The Afternoon, Half Moon Putney, May 28-29 2022

Gavin and Christine Chittick are two unsung heroes of UK Country. Jon Stone of American Young, who headlined the second day of the festival, wants Gavin to have a radio show in East Nashville to bring his Scottish brogue to Music City. Make it happen, Jon!

Jon and his wife Kristy followed their date at Buck N Bull on Saturday night with a 4pm show at Putney’s most celebrated venue. They were the eighth act to play across the weekend where daytime revellers packed into the room. Tables and chairs were laid out for those who arrived prompt for the 1pm start.

On Saturday, two magnificent English acts began the afternoon before Robbie Cavanagh reprised his Nashville Meets London set (reviewed here) and the super trio Balsamo Collins Riley iced the cake. Alan Finlan and Emilia Quinn will both be at Buckle and Boots with a full band, but the afternoon called for a more stripped-back set.

Emilia is a star and is a sort of mother hen figure of the scene having pulled together many ladies for the song Girl Talk. She actually told the audience to be louder if they wanted to, and thanked them for being ‘so attentive’. With her wife at the back of the room, Emilia played a 40-minute set full of impressive songs accompanied by her resonant guitar in a ‘dropped D’ tuning.

Emilia admitted that she only has one love song, a recently released track called One of You. It’s hard to write a love song without descending into cheesiness, she said, though she showed a good grasp of the genre as she sang of that ‘special kind of someone’. Conversely there was a fine song about murder, which will go down well at Buckle and Boots too.

I don’t like referring to how performers dress, but the ripped jeans, cowboy boots and sleeveless top was a perfect costume for Emilia’s performance. Her song Head Rush reminded me of Girl Crush, while her guttural vocal on Through My Veins proved that she could encapsulate a full-band number on her own. A new song was given its third-ever live outing and impressed the crowd with an a cappella opening, while a song called Daddy’s Girl had a funky riff which will sound great on record when she gets in the studio to lay down the tracks.

Having impressed fans on the Paddock Stage last year, Alan Finlan has been upgraded to a Friday night main stage performance at Buckle & Boots. He is a great ambassador for UK country, having moved across from rock, and easily filled 40 minutes with self-deprecation, anecdotes and great songs.

There was a fine key change in his opener Whiskey On Ice, a word perfect version of the carpe diem song Making Your Mark (which Alan said he always fumbled) and fine rhythmic player on my favourite track of his, Big Man Small Town. As well as the amped-up tunes, his set also included the soft Battle of the Bands, the melancholy waltz This Drink Is Like Having You Home and a slightly slower version of party song No Money By Monday.

There was a segue from his own Cowboy Truth into Luke Combs’ 1, 2 Many. ‘People say I look like…this,’ Alan said, pointing to his Combs-like features, ‘but I’m more attractive!’ The highlight of the set was a dedication of Country Roads to his late grandfather, who had incredibly never heard him sing before. Stick at it, Grandpa said, and Alan will keep the John Denver song in his set for years.

As for American Young, who followed Tupelo Lime, Eddy Smith and the 507 and Meg McPartlin on the Sunday, there was a slight end of term feel about proceedings. Kristy’s fiddle was brilliant throughout but Jon, who broke a string in one of the first numbers, seemed distracted. Old favourites like Love Is War blended well with new ones like Some Girl, a song which was first heard by Gavin Chittick himself, who told Jon it was a smash. It was a terrific hour of country music which ended with a medley of classic country songs including Kiss My Country Ass and My Maria. Credit goes to band – Luke on guitar, Chris on drums, Phil on bass – for holding the rhythm while Jon’s mind wandered off into the sunset.

There are still tickets available for Millport Festival, which is also put on by the Chittick family and this year happens the weekend of August 19-20. Headliners include Drake White and Sunny Sweeney. Information can be found here.

Alan and Emilia perform at Buckle and Boots – Emilia on the Paddock Stage where Gavin acts as MC – and will both feature in the Summer 2022 edition of the UK Country Top 40 Chart Countdown.

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